Aberfan - Inquiry
21st October, 1966
The Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil, Councillor Stanley Davies, set up The Aberfan Disaster Fund and the money flowed in from all over the world, charities, clubs, Trade Unions and Voluntary bodies. Many people sent gifts that cold be sold to provide money for the Fund. The Appeal reached a total of one and three quarter million pounds and a Management Committee was set up with Stanley Davies as the Chairman. Financial help was given to the families of the victims and the sit of the disaster cleaned up and money from the Fund financed many ventures in the village.
At the inquiry, it emerged that as early as 29th July 1959, the Town Clerk of Merthyr had written to The Area Estates Manager of the National Coal Board regarding the 'reference made to the potential danger of the tip at Aberfan' and on 17th June 1960, the Town Clerk wrote to the Coal Board that a deputation, wished to discuss with you the potential danger of the above Tip. Concern had been expressed that the Tip could slide after heavy rainfall.'
In 1963 there was a slide on the No.7 Tip and there was evidence that this had an effect on the surface after and drainage of the area but tipping did not stop. After hearing all the evidence, the Tribunal came to the following conclusions:-
- That the blame for the disaster rests upon the National Coal Board. The blame is shared, through varying degrees, among the National Coal Board Headquarters, the South Western Divisional Board and certain individuals.
- There is a total absence of tipping policy and this was the basic cause of the disaster. In this respect, however, the National Coal Board were following in the footsteps of their predecessors. They were not guided either by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Mines and Quarries or by legislation.
- There is no legislation dealing with the safety of tips in force in this or any country, except in part of West Germany and in South Africa.
- The legal liability of the National Coal Board to pay compensation for the personal injuries (fatal or otherwise) and damage to property is incontestable and uncontested.
There were certain lessons to be learned and action needed to be taken to safeguard the future condition of the tips at Aberfan. Underground storage of rubbish was not regarded as a practical proposition. All tips should be regarded as potentially dangerous and should be treated as civil engineering structures. There was an obvious need for the communication system within the National Coal Board to be overhauled.
The Tribunal made the following recommendations:-
- A National Tip Safety Committee should be appointed to advise the Minister and to co-ordinate research into the problem of tip safety and of bulk disposal of industrial waste products.
- The National Coal Board should continue to have prime responsibility in respect of all tips in its ownership.
- A standard Code of Practice should be prepared for consideration by the National Tip Safety Committee with a view to its being issued publicly and applied to all tips, whether in the ownership of the National Coal Board or otherwise.
- Her Majesty's Inspectorate, strengthened by the addition of qualified civil engineers and armed with statutory powers, should be made responsible for ensuring the discharge by the National Coal Board officials of their duties in relation to tip stability and control.
- A local authority should have access to plans for tipping and reports on existing tips and, if not satisfied with them, should have the right to appeal to the Minister, who might appoint an independent expert to conduct an examination and make recommendations.
- Men engaged in the daily management and control of tips should be trained for their responsibilities.
- Managers and surveyors should as soon as possible be made aware of the rudiments of soil mechanics and ground-water conditions.
The statutory qualifications of managers and surveyors should be amended to include awareness of the rudiments of soil mechanics and hydrogeology in addition to the geology already comprised in the syllabus.
Many of the Tribunal's recommendations were accepted and tips all over the country were examined. The Institution of Civil Engineers produced a paper that laid down their findings and gave guide lines for further tipping so that the disaster could never be again repeated.
The NCB cleared the seven tips overlooking the village but they sent the bill to the Disaster Fund. It was not until 1997 that the Government of the day reimbursed the money.